10 Best Cities in America for Health and Happiness

Looking to relocate? Start here.

Each year, the healthiest and happiest cities in America are named by public agencies, private consultancies, magazines, blogs and now even Foursquare. These lists consider key indicators like fitness, diet and emotional well-being, as well as more concrete factors like number of farmer’s markets and ratio of sunny days. In honor of National Nutrition Month, here’s a rundown of the best of the best.

San Francisco, California (Top Image)

Early adventurers seeking the Fountain of Youth should have stuck flowers in their hair and headed for San Francisco, which was recently named the best city for staying young by the RealAge 2012 Youngest and Oldest Cities report. Certainly San Francisco’s top billing on Prevention Magazine‘s list of America’s best walking cities helps. Add a strong emphasis on local and organic food and a low incidence of smoking, and you have the best anti-aging recipe in the country.

Honolulu, Hawaii

Honolulu residents are among the country’s slimmest people, according to Self magazine. One contributor is diet; Honolulu reports the highest number of Foursquare check-ins to healthy eating establishments, like farmers markets, fish markets, salad shops and juice bars, as a percentage of total check-ins to restaurants and shops. It’s a winning combination for mental health too: Honolulu leads the nation in Emotional Health according to last year’s Gallup Well-Being Index.

Raleigh, North Carolina

A focus on preventative medicine earned Raleigh the title of Healthiest City for Women in Men’s and Women’s Health‘s annual survey, which ranks metropolitan cities in 30 areas ranging from fitness to diet to disease. Life expectancy is high, especially since the vast majority of women stay on top of regular health examinations like mammograms and pap smears.

Minneapolis, Minnesota

The American Fitness Index from the American College of Sports Medicine ranked Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington the best metropolitan area for healthy, fit and active lifestyles. The Twin Cities boast high numbers of public recreation areas, which likely contributes to their low levels of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Low poverty and unemployment levels are just the cherry on top.

Lancaster, Pennsylvania

Lancaster residents certainly have something to smile about. The city scored highest in 2011 on the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, which examines life evaluation, emotional health, work environment, physical health, healthy behaviors and access to basic necessities. Lancaster also boasts one of the highest per-capita rates of green roof space in the country.

Phoenix, Arizona

Blue skies are the norm in Phoenix, which made Self magazine’s list of the Healthiest Cities for Women because of its high sunny day ratio. Retirees flock there for the pleasant weather and easy lifestyle.

San Jose, California

Residents of San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara reported the highest well-being among metropolitan areas with a million or more inhabitants, according to the Gallup Well-Being Index. San Jose also leads America in Foursquare check-ins for physical fitness.

Burlington, Vermont

Burlington topped this year’s list of the Healthiest Cities for Men from Men’s and Women’s Health, and it was ranked the healthiest city in America by the Centers for Disease Control in 2008. Burlington also has the most farmer’s markets in the country according to Self magazine’s listing, which confirms our theory that healthy eating can solve all manners of maladies.

Boulder, Colorado

Boulder’s wide array of outdoor pursuits make it the best U.S. city for weight loss, according to Prevention magazine. Not only are its residents active hikers, bikers, and yogis, but the city also offers loads of fresh, local cuisine. The endorphins seem to be having an impact; Boulder made the top of the Gallup Well-Being Index in 2009.

Ann Arbor, Michigan

Residents of Ann Arbor reported the best overall life evaluation in 2011, according to the Gallup Well-Being Index. This may be thanks to an emphasis on education and innovation. In the past year, Ann Arbor has been ranked among America’s Geekiest Cities by Forbes, Most Educated Cities by U.S. News and World Report, and Most Well-Read Cities by Amazon.com. The city certainly proves that enlightenment is a key to health and happiness.

Images: Beto Ruiz Alonso, Gsgeorge, Bob Jagendorf, Church Street Marketplace, messycupcakes, Ludovic Hirlimann, North Carolina National Guard, Victoria Garcia, Tim Wilson, the_tahoe_guy

Jessica Marati

Jessica Marati currently resides in New York City and covers travel and sustainability for EcoSalon. Catch her weekly column, Behind the Label.